2021 Citrus
Bowl Page


Played January 1, 2021

Camping World Stadium, Orlando, Florida
Attendance: Officially 0. However, unoffocially several thousand fans and family members.

CFP #14 Northwestern's 2020 regular season record: 6-1, B1G West Champion. 2020 season record after B1G title game: 6-2.

Coach: Pat Fitzgerald

Captains: 2020 had no season captains; captains were chosen by week.

Opponent: Auburn

NU/Auburn series record (prior to bowl): Auburn led, 1-0.

  1 2 3 4 F
NU 14 0 7
Auburn 0 6 7 6 19


Northwestern came into Orlando as a team in turmoil: it just lost its second Big Ten title game to Ohio State in three seasons, a host of players-- including several stars-- had announced they were entering the transfer portal or leaving NU early, and rumors swirled around Pat Fitzgerald's status. The team left the Sunshine State, however, in a much better position, having downed Auburn in convincing fashion for the team's biggest bowl win since 1949 and with Coach Fitzgerald reassuring the Wildcat faithful that he was committed to staying on the Enchanted Lakefront. The game was one of the greatest performances by a Fitz-coached team ever, and HTP has placed it at #13 on its list of the greatest Wildcat games in history, beating all bowl games save the '49 Rose.

The 'Cats took a commanding 14-0 lead against Auburn in the first quarter and never trailed. Peyton Ramsey connected with Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman for a 35-yard touchdown, which was followed by a Ramsey TD strike to John Raine. Auburn attempted to scratch back, hitting two field goals in the second quarter and trading touchdowns in the third, with Ramsey scoring his third touchdown, a 30-yard run.  In the fourth quarter NU secured the win with a Cam Porter touchdown followed by Ramsey's fourth score, an 8-yard pass to Riley Lees.

Ramsey finished with 291 passing yards, and Northwestern's 16-point margin of victory was its largest ever against an SEC team-- bowl or regular season.

NU vs. Auburn

The Wildcats have won three straight bowl games, and they're gunning for bowl win #4 in a row this Friday, when they take on Auburn, a rematch of the classic 2010 Outback Bowl. The Outback was the only previous time that Auburn and Northwestern faced each other in football, and a win against the Tigers in the Citrus would give NU an even record against Auburn and move NU's record against the SEC to an impressive 5-2 since that Outback loss.

NU is coming off a valiant 22-10 loss vs. Ohio State in the conference title game. The 'Cats are saying goodbye to defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz, AD Jim Phillips, and a slew of players who are entering the transfer portal or leaving for the NFL draft. The exodus of key players on both sides of the ball threatens to be a significant distraction as the 'Cats prepare for their first Citrus appearance since 1997, but NU remains a 3.5-point favorite.

In what will be his first (and, possibly, his last) bowl appearance as a Wildcat, quarterback Peyton Ramsey will lead the NU offense against an Auburn defense that has been sporadic. At times the Tigers' defense has clicked, holding LSU to eleven points and tightening up against Mississippi State; against superior teams like Texas A&M and Alabama it has been gashed for yards and scores. The Tiger D has allowed over 25 points a game on average and nearly six yards per play; opponents are converting 55% of third downs. If the NU offense can get into a groove, and if Porter can move against the on-again-off-again Auburn run defense, NU should be able to get a score over 30 points for the first time since the season opener against Maryland.

On defense, NU will get its biggest challenge of the year, excepting the loss to the Buckeyes. Still, the Tiger offense has also been hit-or-miss this season. Auburn's offense resembles the Wildcat teams of the early 2000s under Coach Walker, a sprinting, hurry-up, no-huddle system designed to keep opposing defenses winded and on their heels.

What might determine this game, however, is how each team is responding to the tumult that surrounds both programs right now. For Auburn, the team is dealing with the firing of head coach Gus Malzahn, who was given nearly $22 million to take a walk. For Northwestern, the changes to a normally rock-stable program are legion this month:
  • AD Jim Phillips is leaving to take over the ACC
  • Defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz is retiring
  • Greg Newsome II, arguably NU's most ferocious cornerback, has declared for the NFL draft
  • Star wide receiver Kyric McGowan has left the team, entering the transfer portal, as have. . .
  • . . . fellow wideout Malik Washington,
  • . . . standout runningback Isiah Bowser,
  • . . . defensive end Eku Leota,
  • . . . linebacker Gunner Maldonado,
  • . . . defensive back Jeremiah McDonald,
  • . . . and legacy runningback Drake Anderson
None of these players-- many of whom were playmakers for the 'Cats during the past three seasons-- will suit up in Orlando. And, last but definitely not least, there is the speculation around Pat Fitzgerald himself, with rumors swirling that several NFL teams will interview Fitz after the season. The Wildcats have not had the best luck during bowl games when their head coach is being interviewed or under consideration-- see the 1996 Rose Bowl and the last time NU was in the Citrus Bowl for examples.